The large majority of Americans “live to work,” spending a large part of our days at a job we don’t love and often times putting that job before our families, desires and dreams. Very few of us are lucky enough to make a living doing what we love most.
How does that old adage go? “Do what you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Here at J&P Cycles, our team members get to live and breathe motorcycles every day. For many, that would be a perk in and of itself.
But for one lucky and well-deserved team member, putting 50,000 miles on his bike a year is just part of the job.
If you’ve ever been to one of the major motorcycle rallies across the United States and stopped by the J&P Cycles semi, chances are you’ve met him. Chances are he greeted you with a smile and helped you find the part you were looking for.
It has been said that “the sparrow beckons us to keep our burdens as light as we can in order to avoid a heavy heart.” And lastly, sparrows always know how to find their way home.
This description fits Joe to a T—Joe has spent the last several years traveling the country with only what he can fit in his tour pack. In between travels, Joe rides to all of the major motorcycle rallies across the United States to set up and help with our events.
Since that time, motorcycle riding has been the most important thing in his life. His biggest problem was never having enough money to repair his bike. So Joe did what Joe does best: he learned how to do it himself.
Joe got his start in the motorcycle industry at age 15 by hanging out at the local Suzuki shop where he washed the boss’ Cadillac and shop towels. Eventually the mechanics at the shop started to teach Joe a thing or two, and before he knew it, he was assembling Suzukis right out of the crate.
He attended junior/senior high school at a tech school for small engine repair and motorcycle mechanics. “I probably never would’ve made it through high school,” says Joe, who was barely pulling D’s and F’s in a traditional classroom. He made the honor roll for the first time in his life while at tech school.
Following tech school, Joe accepted his first real job as a mechanic in Florissant, Mo., at the largest Honda shop in Midwest at the time. As time went on, he worked at all of the major brand motorcycle dealers including Harley-Davidson, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha, as well as smaller dealers such as Benelli and Hercules. Joe was a Jack of all trades.
Joe continued to work in motorcycle shops as a mechanic until he opened his own motorcycle shop in 1984. He specialized in parts, service and used bike sales until 1993 when his St. Charles, Mo., business was flooded out. Following that time, Joe put in nearly 14 years at MID-USA Motorcycle Parts Distributing in St. Louis, Mo., doing various jobs including catalog copywriter, tech line and quality control until early 2009.
Joe’s journey with J&P Cycles started during Daytona Bike Week 2009. His first job was helping us set up for Bike Week where he worked the clearance tent. He then spent the next three years traveling by motorcycle and working at several of the major motorcycle rallies across the country.
Living very frugally and carrying only what fits in the back of his 2002 Honda Goldwing 1800cc, Joe rides around the country camping, seeing the sights, visiting old friends and making new ones. “I try not to hit the same road twice in one year,” says Joe. Since 2012, Joe has been at every major U.S. motorcycle rally that our J&P Cycles truck is at, selling motorcycle parts off the truck.
Joe compares himself to the likes of a carnival worker with his job duties being: meeting the truck at the event, helping set up the truck, selling parts for a week or two, tearing the truck down, and meeting them at the next event.
For Joe, life happens in between events.
To date, he has 455,000 miles on his Goldwing, which he bought with a mere 17,000 miles. Last year alone he put 38,000 miles on his bike. The most miles he’s ridden in a year, even while working a 40 hour a week job, was 56,000 miles. After a lifetime of riding, Joe stopped keeping track after 1,000,000 miles on two wheels. Now who can say that?
During the off months when Joe isn’t working events, he travels the world on his motorcycle, including a trip to Cuba in early 2015 and Vietnam in 2013. (Look for more about those trips in a later blog.)
With his keen eye for photography and his ability to make friends everywhere he goes, we realized what untapped potential we had in Joe. He already has his own following on Instagram and Facebook, he travels the country on a motorcycle and he’s an amazing photographer. What more could we ask?
Joe was a shoo-in and will soon be covering his many adventures as our on-the-road social media correspondent. Follow along with Joe’s adventures as the Wandering Sparrow. Look for his blog articles, photos and videos documenting what it really means to live out your dreams.
In the meantime, stop by the J&P Cycles truck at the next major motorcycle rally and say “Hi.” Until then, keep the rubber side down. See you on the road.